SPEAK NOW Clarinet & Saxophone Society review

CASS Magazine album review by Kenneth Morris | Volume 39, No 2

SPEAK NOW music for tenor saxophone
Matt London (saxophone) , David Howard and Geoff Eales (piano)

ML001 available from www.mattlondonmusic.com

Readers of my reviews might remember my railing against ‘modern music’ some of which, to my ears, comes devoid of melody, harmony, rhythm, structure and even tonality / sonority. Matt’s late 2013 recording of some 66 minutes duration and nine modern compositions contains six well short of memorable melodies and three very tuneful pieces Song for my Mother, Ballad in Memory of Shirley Horn (ballads) and Farewell Patagonia (an extremely rhythmic tango). But every single track is a variable triumph of sonority. What a sublime variety of tonalities, I’m pretty sure Matt won’t thank me for one of the exquisite sounds i received, that of a bassoon.

This disc meant a great deal to me. As a amateur tenorist for some 66 years, I’ve grown up through the ever developing jazz sounds of Coleman Hawkins, Vido Musso, Warne Marsh, Hank Mobley, Stan Getz, Bobby Wellins and John Coltrane plus the classical French soloists and, more recently the sounds of the RNCM tutors and their alumni of which Matt is one. Whatever composition Matt delivers and wherever the range on the horn the sound is immaculate. Go to Matt’s website for much more about his performance and compositional objectives, they are clearly set out (and I very much enjoyed his summary of the last World Saxophone Congress in Aberdeen).

How Matt generates his superb sound comes down to the usual three elements: the player, the mouthpiece and the instrument. Clearly the Rob Buckland / Andy Scott duo have had a considerable influence on the player. For those not fortunate enough to work with these two teachers the former has recently written Playing the Saxophone (published by Astute Music and reviewed in this magazine last year, Vol.38, No.3). I make no recommendation on mouthpieces as they should be individually selected by the player but Matt uses a Brilhart Ebolin 4* with a Rico H ligature and Rico Jazz Select Filed 3H reeds.

His saxophone however is something else. It’s a 1933 C.G Conn New Wonder Transitional customised by Leeds based saxophone engineer Steve Crow. Possessed of extraordinary sonority, tenor saxophones made by Conn from 1931 to 1962 can be re-engineered in a number of ways to mimic post Second World War key plate positioning (and other improvements). Steve and I currently working up an article for a future issue of this magazine on Vintage Conn Saxophones to cover sopranos, altos and baritones as well as the tenor. By the way Matt is not the only professional UK tenorist to use a customised vintage Conn.

Back to the CD! It opens with Matt’s composition The Pervasive Force a duet part ballad and part brisk dialogue with the piano. Track 2 is the Geoff Eales duet Song for my Mother followed by an Andy Scott tenor solo My Mountain Top with background synths noises and spoken prose. Adam Caird’s Out of Line is a technically extremely demanding duet with piano followed by another tenor solo Sarcanthus by Cheryl Frances-Hoad - this is the track with a bassoon-like sonority. The last four tracks are: Farewell Patagonia by Geoff Eales, Passing by Graham Fitkin, Kaito by Graham Coatman an ultra-modern duet and Ballad in Memory of Shirley Horn by Richard Rodney Bennett. Awesome sounds - beautifully played.

Kenneth Morris


CASS exists to promote the playing of the clarinet and saxophone at all levels and in all musical styles. Visit us at www.cassgb.org for new online content.